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My Top Twenty of 2020.

1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

When pushed to come up with one definitive favourite of the year, it would have to be Hamnet. This is a literary masterpiece from Maggie O’Farrell and is deservedly winning accolades from critics and award judges alike. This is the story of Shakespeare and his wife, Agnes (as recorded in historical records) based around the tragic death of their only son Hamnet. In an incredible piece of storytelling O’Farrell weaves the tale of their courtship, marriage and their family unit with a world affected by plague and even the voyage of the offending plague fleas via some Murano glass beads shipped to Stratford from Venice. Agnes is an extraordinary woman, with her birds of prey, apothecary garden and healing business. This terrible death has driven them apart in their grief, will they be able to find to find a way back to each other?

2. A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

Nydia Hetherington is a sorceress. She has conjured up this box of terrors and delights from the depths of her imagination and it is incredible. We follow Mouse as she crawls, peeps, stumbles and walks around the incredible show that is a circus. Billed as a tale about the Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived I was expecting glitz and glamour, the front of house show. However, the author cleverly goes deeper than that, far behind the curtain. Incredible descriptive passages draw us in to Mouse’s world from the smell near the big cats enclosure, the feel of a llama’s fur against your skin, the cramped but colourful quarters of the circus folk and the volatile relationship between her mother Marina and father Manu – so focused on each other they seem barely aware of her existence. Her freedom gives us access to every part of this wondrous world, but freedom has its dark side and for Mouse this is really a tale of parental neglect. She is brought up by the circus, mainly by Serendipity Wilson, the flame haired high wire artiste who takes Mouse under her wing. Under her tuition Mouse becomes an incredible tightrope walker, able to take her place under the spotlight like her parents. Bookending these tales of circus life is an interview undertaken with a grown-up Mouse, haunted by her part in the story of another child lost from the circus and saddened by the truth of why her mother never loved her. This is part wondrous circus tale, but mostly a meditation on what it is to be human. Truly wonderful.

3. The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan

The Museum of Broken Promises is situated in Paris and run by Laure, all of its exhibits are donated by the owner and each one represents a different promise broken. The most innocuous object could represent a life utterly changed. Each contributor is interviewed by Laure and she makes the decision to exhibit or not. Laure secretly displays items from her past, including a Czechoslovakian train ticket. She is tight lipped about her past, and her stylish clothes and tiny apartment are unobtrusive and indistinctive. However, two things seem to be encroaching on her anonymity. The first is a tiny feral cat she finds on the street and second is a persistent freelance journalist called May who wants to write a piece on the museum. Laure soon finds that May is ruthless, despite assurances to the contrary, as she starts to ask questions about Laure’s past. A past that Laure would rather remained buried. This involves a summer job in the Czech Republic, as nanny to a family whose father is a member of the Commmunist Party. When she meets Tomasz, lead singer in a subversive band and open critic of the regime, Laure’s two worlds will collide in ways that change her life forever. The author creates a haunting sense of Prague with its ghosts, but also an incredible museum in Paris. Powerful human emotions are contained within the objects and their curator is struggling to come to terms with her own incredible story of promises broken.

4. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

It’s true to say I fell instantly in love with Evie Epworth, an intelligent and spirited girl enjoying the summer between her O and A’ Levels. Evie had planned to pass the summer reading, enjoying her crush on Adam Faith, baking with her neighbour and delivering the milk produced on her Dad’s farm. However, she didn’t bank on Dad’s new girlfriend Chrissie. Evie and her Dad have lived alone at the farm since the death of Evie’s mother and have been muddling along just fine, but then he met Chrissie – much younger barmaid from the local pub. She has gradually moved into the farm and is now proposing changes, like ripping out the dirty old Aga and replacing it with a new electric cooker. In fact, in Chrissie words, it’s time the whole kitchen was replaced for something melamine and easy to clean, a real 1960s update. She also aims to change Evie’s plans, pushing her towards getting a job and standing on her own two feet. Will Chrissie get her feet permanently under the table, or will Evie come up with a plan to expose exactly what Chrissie is truly like with the help of her new friend and mentor Caroline? This is a true slice of Yorkshire, forthright and funny with real human emotions underneath. It was reminiscent of Sue Townsend at her best and who could forget that comical cow car crash scene? The funniest book of the year by a long way.

5. WhenI Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

Where to start with this emotional piece of historical fiction? This is a stunning exploration of post WW1 Britain, through the story of ‘Adam’ – – a soldier found sitting in Durham Cathedral with no idea who he is or how he got there. He is placed in the care of Dr James Haworth, who takes him to Fellside for psychological rehabilitation. James is also a casualty of war, but feels he can help Adam through talking therapy and other psychological techniques, but nothing works. In desperation, he decides that someone must recognise him and places a photograph of Adam in a national newspaper. What he didn’t bank on was three different women coming forward, each claiming they recognise Adam and he is theirs. Through these women we see the impact of the war on those left behind and as a reader you are torn between them, hoping he belongs to different women at different places in the narrative. I loved how the book questions the very nature of selfhood – do we have a fixed single self or is it fluid, and ever changing? The author cleverly and with great emotional depth, shines a light on a turbulent period of history where everyone is trying to adjust and move on from the horror of war.

6. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The central characters in this novel are the Eastwood sisters – Agnes Amaranth (the mill girl), Beatrice Belladonna (the librarian and researcher) and finally James Jupiter, the youngest sister with a wild streak and fierce loyalty to her sisters. This is New Salem, 1893, and since the burnings there haven’t been witches in this part of the world. However, snippets of the words and ways of witchcraft remain, hiding in plain sight. In the lullaby a mother uses to soothe her child, in the rhyme from a children’s game and even in recipe books. These are women’s spaces, and this old wisdom is accessible to anyone, once you realise it is there. The power lies dormant at a time when women are fighting more than ever to have a share in power at the ballot box. When the three sisters join the suffragettes of New Salem, they start to realise some of the power that Bella has been researching and wield it against those shadowy figures who would rather not see a witch live, let alone vote. The villain is an aspiring politician who hates witches and possibly women too. He wants to use the ballot box for legitimacy, but his actions are those of a dictator. It is Jupiter who sees what he truly is in a horrifying scene in the ‘Deeps’ – a basement prison that fills with water. Like the sisters he appears to have a ‘glamour’, a way of appearing to other people that masks the true face. Harrow doesn’t hold back on the horror of how witches have been treated historically and their nemesis here is particularly cruel. Their final confrontation isn’t just heart rending, it’s heart stopping and this Harrow’s incredible skill, she creates a world of magic, but then connects the reader to her characters so strongly that they feel their pain and their triumphs. I loved spending time in this incredible world.

7. If I Could Say Goodbye by Emma Cooper

What an incredibly emotional read this was for me. I found myself having a good old cry at 4am over Jen and her family’s story. It begins when Jennifer is adopted by a childless couple and four years later gets an unexpected little sister. Kerry is a determined, mischievous and curious little girl and the pair are incredibly close. In adulthood, the two are still inseparable. Jen now has husband Ed and two children while Kerry has a long term partner in Nessa, who she is hoping to propose to. When a terrible accident happens while the sisters are on a shopping trip, Kerry is killed. Now Jen needs to find a way to carry on living, but the survivor’s guilt and grief are very strong. As Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of her sister, it becomes clear that Jen can’t let Kerry go. Yet, by keeping hold of her sister, will she end up losing her own family? Ed has noticed that Jen doesn’t seem as organised as usual and is often staring off into space. Then at other times she is almost over-excited, even reckless. He doesn’t know what we know. Jen can still see Kerry and talk to her. For Jen, Kerry is as real as Ed and the children, what will he do when this starts to affect them? Jen has a heartbreaking dilemma. Does she follow medical advice and take pills that might make Kerry disappear forever? She feels like she’s killing her sister again. The psychiatrist who sees Jen and diagnoses complicated grief understands what she’s feeling. This is survivor’s guilt. Jen wonders why she survived and Kerry didn’t. Kerry saved her life by pushing her away from the oncoming vehicle. In Jen’s mind she’s already killed her once, but is she willing to give up her family to keep her. This was heartbreaking and mending in equal measure.

8. Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Taking us through the dangerous years of the 17th Century, where Puritanical communities like Salem in Massachusetts were whipped to hysteria, and would not suffer a witch to live. Hoffman’s prequel to Practical Magic shows the beginnings of the Owens family and the complicated relationship between their powers and their very human need to be loved. Maria is abandoned and has the mark of a blood witch, as well as a familiar in the form of a crow. She is taken in by Hannah Owens, who teaches her the old ways, cultivating a herb garden and making potions for women from town. When Hannah is burned, Maria flees and sets in motion a chain of events that all Owens women face. Can the reconcile their mystical powers with their human need to be loved. Maria travels to the tropical island of Curaçao, to Massachusetts and then Brooklyn. I felt emotional as She saw her ‘mother figure’ Hannah murdered by men who feared her, as she realised the man she loved didn’t really exist, and as she lost Cadin her loyal companion. Whilst all the time the man who truly loves her is there showing loyalty and nobility, but will she ever trust his offer of lifelong companionship? This novel saw the series coming full circle, to the formation of that belief that love can’t be trusted. It shapes Jet’s journey and sees Gillian constantly pick the wrong man in the later books. This was the perfect addition to one of my favourite literary series.

9. The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele

I thoroughly enjoyed this dual time frame travelogue through Europe, triggered when Flo’s grandmother dies and she finds a box full of sewing patterns in the back of her wardrobe. Each pattern has a postcard or photograph slipped inside, and the first shows a stylish woman at a train station being waved off by Flo’s gran and her close knit group of friends. Yet, Flo has never met the women and never heard her grandmother talk about Nancy. Inspired to make the first dress, Flo decides to make the whole holiday wardrobe and trace Nancy’s steps through Europe to find out who this woman was and what she meant to her family. We follow Nancy on the original journey as she’s hired by a family to be companion to their teenage daughter on the trip. However, as always there are secrets within this family and Nancy starts to uncover them. Flo hopes the trip will give her the space to think about her separation from her husband Seamus and the grief that tore them apart. The places are beautifully brought to life, the clothes are gorgeous 1950s/60s fashion and when the mystery of Nancy is uncovered it is such a satisfying conclusion for both her and Flo. This was a sunny, escapist, gem of a book.

10. Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce.

I love Rachel Joyce’s work, and this is her best novel to date. I felt completely immersed in New Caledonia and the women’s expedition. Joyce brought to life the heat, the lush greenery, the sheer volume of different species and the changeable weather. Margery is on a quest to find a mysterious golden beetle that her father taught her about. So she sets off to the only island in the world where they exist, with a very questionable assistant called Edith. Margery is single minded in her quest, whereas Edith is resourceful but distracted by attractive men. I was so desperate for these very different women to be successful and find this magical beetle. I won’t reveal the ending, but it was a perfect moment that brought a tear to my eye. Tension builds, as a strange man stalks them and Edith’s methods for finding equipment cross the line into criminal behaviour. There is also the matter of Edith’s increasingly obvious pregnancy and the much publicised hunt for a British woman who killed her partner. The friendship these women build is incredible and I wanted them to plot their escape together, even if it had to be a Thelma and Louise style ending. The book teaches us that it’s okay to be different and that once you live authentically, you will find your people. If we choose to live within societies constraints we might always feel like a misfit; not fitting in can feel painful, but it always feels like freedom. Margery learns that the joy comes not in realising your dreams, but in continuing to pursue them. This is a strongly feminist piece of work that spoke to me deeply about fulfilling my purpose and the importance of my female Friends

11. The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone

How have I come this far in my reading life without reading Doug Johnstone? The Skelfs are the family I didn’t even know I was missing. This is the second novel in this series and set within the city of Edinburgh. This a family of undertakers and private investigators. Just to set up the kind of family they are, the author places their residence and place of work at No 0 – somewhere that doesn’t exist. Grandmother Dorothy is a Californian lured to Edinburgh after falling in love with Jimmy Skelf, now passed away. Dorothy works in the funeral business with employee Archie, but also takes on PI duties and in her spare time teaches spunky young girls to play the drums. Mum Jenny is at a loose end so comes into the family business after her father dies. She jumps into the PI business with both feet, which is how she seems to do most things. Granddaughter Hannah is studying physics at Edinburgh University and lives with her girlfriend Indy. The women are following two lines of enquiry. Dorothy is trying to find out about a young man who died when his van crashed into an open grave leaving her with his dog. Hannah is drawn into a mystery surrounding her physics professor who dies while they are organising a memorial for Hannah’s friend. This is a family at full stretch, struggling to come to terms with having a murderer in the family and investigating on three different fronts. These women are ballsy and formidable, but ultimately the most loving and accepting family. This is about them all finding ways to live, whilst in the midst of healing from trauma and dealing in death. I’m waiting impact for the next instalmen

12. The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

Wow! This was a tough read in lockdown. Eve Smith creates a world like this. It’s ours, but not quite. There’s a sense of the uncanny. It’s familiar, yet changed completely. This is a world ‘post-Crisis’ and three different women tell the story. Lily is an older woman, living in a nursing home after the ‘Crisis’ act was passed, to reduce access to antibiotics for the over 70s. Life has now changed completely. Kate is a nurse, working within this changed healthcare system. She works with people who are terminally ill and if someone is over 70 and has a terminal diagnosis they have a choice; they can take their chances in an imperfect system with no interventions possible or they can come to waiting room with their family and end their life. Mary takes us back to pre-crisis times and her post-graduate days in South Africa trying to find a new species of plant for medical applications. This is a very credible dystopia, one that’s closer to the truth than a lot of people would like to think. We follow three interesting and intelligent women, trying their best in an imperfect system. It scared me, made me think about my old age and the way we treat those older and sicker than us. I think it is a staggering work of genius, delicate and detailed, but inside a huge vision. I found it incredible.


13. The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman

Set around one day in London, the author takes a handful of strangers and places them together in an intense situation. Abi is a solicitor, who decides to pop to a Balham cafe called Tuckbox because the station cafe is crowded and she only has four minutes till her train. Mutesi has come from a night shift and is meeting her daughter -in -law in Tuckbox to collect her grandson, Emmanuel. Neil is homeless, and has been given some money so he opts to visit Tuckbox and sit by the radiator for a while. Inside is a waitress and cafe owner, Robert. Into this everyday scene walks Sam and each of their lives is about to change beyond recognition. After a brief argument with Robert, Sam returns to his nearby Land Rover and comes back with a shotgun. Novels like this work because they teach us something about what it means to be human. These characters take a terrifying situation and choose to grown and connect. It was moving, compassionate and a story for these times.

14. When The Music Stops by Joe Heap

The joy of doing blog tours is that sometimes you stumble across a book you wouldn’t normally have read. I’d never read Joe Heap’s work before, but what started out adagio builds to an absolute crescendo of emotion and I shed tears over Ella’s story. In the present, we meet Ella as an old lady shipwrecked on a yacht called Mnemosyne with a small baby. She’s struggling physically and seems forgetful, whether through injury or age we don’t know at first. Then we are taken back to different points in her life, significant moments with specific people. Whether with her for a short or long time, these are people she has lost and their presence had a massive impact on her life. When she’s left a guitar by her childhood friend who dies for an asthma attack. Ella picks up a book of seven guitar exercises featuring songs that encompass stages of life, from the child to the crone. Called The Songs of the Dead, the music shop owner is unsure whether it’s suitable for a child, but Ella is sure. It is each of these exercises that separates the sections of the book. The structure is incredibly effective, it feels natural and organic rather than a forced device. Each section comprises the song, the memory and then Ella’s present situation with an unusual element – each person she has lost returns from the past with her. For anyone who has lost someone this story is especially poignant, but somehow it manages to stop short of sentimentality. Instead it feels profound, honest and raw and left me with such a beautiful bittersweet afterglow.

15. Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins

I loved the main character in this novel. Dee drew me to her straight away. There is a sense that she doesn’t really belong anywhere but she is curiously at ease with who she is. Some thing of an outsider in Oxford, she doesn’t belong to any of the colleges but is one of those invisible people who provides services to those who do belong. Dee is a nanny and makes a very disturbing observation about the academics who use her services – when desperate, people will let a near stranger look after their child. The new master and his wife, Nick and Mariah, hire her after a chance meeting on a bridge early one morning. They do not ask for references or do a police check. If they had, they would have found that Dee has a criminal record. Cracks soon become evident in this family as Dee moves in and starts to look after Felicity. Her stepmother, Mariah, tells Dee that Felicity is selectively mute, that she met Nick after his wife died and that they both did everything to help her talking again. This is very economical with the truth. Felicity isn’t just mute; she is a very distressed child, seemingly obedient, but full of simmering anger and confusion. She roams the house while still asleep, makes patterns on the floor with bones and artefacts, and wanders into the ‘priest’s hole’ at night. The tension is ratcheted up when Felicity goes missing and the narrative passes back and forth between the present day and each character’s past. As the police wonder and question, the reader does the same. Is Felicity as disturbed as Dee believes? Or is Nick right and it’s Dee’s presence causing the problems? This was an intelligent and taut psychological thriller that will leave you conflicted to the end.

16. Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson

Alison and Dan live in Sheffield in the late 1970s when the city was still a thriving steel manufacturer. Dan is from the more family friendly Nether Edge, while Alison is from the rougher Attercliffe area, in the shadow of a steel factory. They meet while still at school and Dan is transfixed with her dark hair, her edge and her love of music. Their relationship is based on music and Dan makes mix tapes for her to listen to when they’re not together such as ‘The Last Best Two’ – the last two tracks from a series of albums. What he doesn’t know is how much Alison needs that music. To be able to put it on as a wall of sound between her and her family. Dan never sees where she lives and doesn’t push her, he only knows she prefers his home whether she’s doing her homework at the kitchen table, getting her nails painted by his sister or sitting with his Dad in the pigeon loft. Dan never understood what happened and why they split up. In the present day Dan is married and lives between his his home in Manchester and a narrow boat in London. Alison is a successful writer, married to an Australian. Dan happens upon her Twitter account, which is largely dormant , and decides to send her a song. He chooses Elvis Costello’s Pump it Up the song that was playing at a house party when he fell in love with her. What will this contact lead to? I loved the way that Sheffield is portrayed with such warmth and the contrast of the two character’s home lives that tells us so much about the people they’ve become. Does first love last a lifetime and would they both unpick the lives they’ve created to be together? This was romantic but realistic and the pair share some great music along the way the pair share some great music along the way.

17. When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby

At the heart of this moving novel is the tragedy of the Katyn Massacre in which over 22,000 Polish military officers were murdered with the Russians claiming the German forces were responsible. The only female victim of the massacre – Polish pilot Janina Lewandowska is the basis of one of the characters in Carolyn Kirby’s novel. Stefan is a Polish pilot of German ancestry. Born in Poznan, a Polish city with a history of German settlers, Stefan speaks both languages. In WW2 Polish inhabitants were executed, arrested, expelled, or used as forced labour; as more Germans were settled into the city. The German population increased from around 5,000 in 1939, to around 95,000 by 1944. The Jewish population of about 2,000 had been moved into concentration camps. Stefan’s girlfriend Ewa is helping with her father’s guest house but also working for the Polish resistance. She has not heard from boyfriend Stefan for some time, and is worried he has been killed or taken as a prisoner of war. Across Europe, Vee is in the ATA- a woman pilot, ferrying RAF planes to and from different bases. Vee fights a lack of confidence to get her wings, but loves being up there in the sky, never knowing from day to day which plane she’ll be flying or where in England she might be going. Vee meets a Polish pilot on the base who introduces himself as Stefan. The next day he sends her roses and an invitation to join him on a night out to a club frequented by the RAF. From here, the three characters collide as Stefan starts a dangerous mission to prove that the Russians committed the massacre at Katyn, not the Germans. When we find out his reasons, they are devastating. I read this novel in two sittings, because I was so emotionally involved with the story. The author created such detailed characters, I believed in them immediately. I had to know who lived to be an old lady, or whether any of the characters made it through the war. The ending is bittersweet, because although I was happy for the characters who survived, I was aware they would live with the events of Katyn and Poznan for the rest of their lives.

18. A Song of Isolation by Michael Malone

Dave seems to have it all: a job within his father’s business, a beautiful home and a long-term relationship with the actress Amelie Hart. His whole world falls apart when he is arrested, accused of molesting the little girl who lives next door. Damaris seems like a lonely little girl, often desperate for someone to play with when Dave is working in the garden. They’ve played football and frisbee together several times, but on this occasion, the police allege that Damaris has gone home on her bike claiming Dave has touched her inappropriately. A medical examination reveals bruising consistent with sexual assault. Dave is living in a nightmare, continually asserting his innocence while every sign seems to point to his guilt. Within days he is charged and remanded into a sexual offender’s unit. Amelie is devastated, although she was having doubts about their relationship she believes Dave is incapable of such a crime. Dave’s parents also believe he’s innocent, but as his mother points out ‘people will say there’s no smoke without fire’. This brings them all unwanted press intrusion and has the potential to ruin them. They all wait for trial, to hear Damaris’s account and praying that it will clear Dave’s name. Michael Malone takes such a difficult subject and creates a compelling story. For me, it was the profound sense of loss that hangs over this story that was most heartbreaking. Damaris loses the one person who has noticed her loneliness and vulnerability. When cross examining Damaris’s mum, the defence barrister asks when she last played football or frisbee with her daughter and she can’t remember. Damaris calls Dave her friend and this could be the confusion of a groomed child, but it feels genuine. I was desperate to believe Dave’s innocence, but if they are making false allegations, Damaris’s parents will be charged and she will end up in care. Even if Dave is found innocent he has lost so much: whatever the outcome, nobody wins here. Despite that there is a sense that too will pass, maybe there will be healing and a chance to connect again. To take that song of isolation and turn it to one of hope for the future.

19. Spirited by Julie Cohen

Viola Worth has grown up cared for by her clergyman Father, as well as his ward, a little boy called Jonah. Viola and Jonah are the best of friends, spending their childhoods largely inseparable. As we meet them in adulthood, they are getting married, but in mourning. A lot has happened during the period of their engagement. Jonah had been out to India, staying at his family’s haveli and checking on his financial interests. For Viola, it’s been a tough time nursing, then losing, her father. He encouraged her in his own profession as a photographer and she has become accomplished in her own right. Viola’s father wanted them to marry, but time apart has changed them and neither knows the full extent of the other’s transformation. Henriette, has worked her way in life from being a servant to a respected spirit medium. She is a woman who started with no advantage and as a young servant models herself on the French governess in the house. Through Henriette, Viola is asked to take a photograph of a child who has just died. No one is more stunned than Viola when she develops the image and sees a blurred figure standing next to the bed, the likeness to their child shocks and comforts the parents; they feel reassured that their child lives on in spirit. This experience, and her first proper female friendship, is like a floodgate opening for Viola. She starts to question the limits of her faith, whether there is more in life she would like to try and whether the burgeoning feelings she has for Henriette are friendship or something else. This is an original, emotional and beautifully written novel that weaves a powerful story from a combination of painstaking historical research and imagination. Cohen acknowledges that this is a novel about faith: religious faith; faith in the paranormal; faith that the ties to those we love don’t end in death; faith in romantic love and the promises we make to each other. It also shows that the ‘in-between’ spaces of life give us more freedom live authentically.

20. This Lovely City by Louise Hare

Set in post-Windrush London, this novel had such a great sense of place, that I felt I was there. The mother land had put out a call to the colonies to fill a labour shortage, and people had answered in great numbers. They relocated from the West Indies to a freezing, grey London and found the welcome was not as warm as they’d expected. We follow two main characters: Lawrie and Evie. They are courting in the old fashioned sense. Lawrie sees in Evie a nice girl, a girl who has been well brought up even though she has never known her father. He wants to do things properly, do right by her. So he calls and they go to the cinema or for a walk. Lawrie has come from Jamaica and works part time as a musician in a local band and full time as a postman, with a sideline in the odd special black market delivery too. Evie has lived in London her whole life with her mother Agnes. They have been Lawrie’s neighbours ever since a rented room opened up at the house next door. The story splits into two time frames approximately one year apart. In one, Lawrie is cutting across Clapham Common at the end of his postal route when he hears a woman shouting. She has found a baby in the pond. Lawrie rushes to help, but they are both too late. The baby becomes the book’s central mystery and because she has black skin, suspicion falls upon the already beleaguered Jamaican community. Rathbone, is the police officer assigned to the case and he relishes causing problems for the community. His suspicions fall on Lawrie, as the first man on the scene, but Rathbone doesn’t just investigate, he sets out to ruin Lawrie’s life. However, there is a secret to this baby’s background that is closer to home than Lawrie imagines. You will root for Lawrie and Evie throughout this mystery, which sheds a light on the racism and suspicion faced by the men and women of the Windrush communities.

Honourable Mentions

Jack and Bet by Sarah Butler

The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elizabeth Gifford

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

The Heatwave by Kate O’Riordan

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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